Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tokyo Love Hello

From an online exhibit sponsored by Slate and Magnum. You can find it here, although you may have to rummage through the archive.

A photograph is inherently alienating. It presents an image to a person who is removed from the source of that image, and it arrests time in such a way that the picture seems to belong to history rather than present. The invention of the photograph and the works of early masters like Adams, Evans, and Steiglitz may belong to the modern, but the enterprise as a whole is postmodern -- disjointed and cracked, with images that subvert their own codes. It is these qualities, in addition to reproducibility, that make photography an ideal medium for the web.

If "Tokyo, Love, Hello" were a novel, the writer would be Murakami. If it were in a museum, I would buy tickets and take friends. It feels like performance art, like avant garde filmmaking, like art. It echoes my experience of much of the world, but does so with incredible specificity of image and place. Shinjuku montage, stuffed pandas, cigars, subways. How to photograph disjuncture, ambiguity, and confusion yet still make the images precise? Try swan paddle boats, cats in boxing rings, corporate gymnastics, stairwells, monk telephones, ritual and neon.

The piece makes both Tokyo and photography an experience shared between artist and viewers. It makes misrecognition its subject, and thus acknowledges, pays tribute to, photography's many alienations.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

I Saw a Movie Tonight

I saw a movie tonight so romantic I will not tell you the title. It featured a Brancusi statue, a concert pianist, a soap opera, and a café. A thunderstorm hitting as a girl steps onto the rooftop, and the angle gets a little wider and the Eiffel Tower looms behind. Here is a woman who has slept with father and son. Here is a woman who mouths the words of French pop music as she jams to her iPod. Here is a woman who gets a job in a place that only hires men. Here are people beloved by all Paris who wish only (well, not only, and certainly not always) to be left alone.

A striptease in a concert hall. By the soloist.

And the music – music as overtly sexual as late-night cable; music that will float you out to sea like an elderly Inuit, music like lavender, like cloves, like milk and honey.

I saw a movie tonight that was a postcard to art, a comedy in the fullest sense of the word (think Balzac). It reminded me of when I used to come to New York only for movies, for popcorn and for the feel of a city and for a breath of the hope of love. Those movies, like this one, made me want to drink coffee and write, repeating endlessly until I keeled over or ossified like a Brancusi sculpture. I'm still shaken.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Outline for a Compendium of Non-Musical Sounds

Part I: Tagine

  • Chopping and Cutting


    • Knife through onion
    • Preserved lemon between thumb and forefinger.
    • Barely audible swish of knife through chicken skin.
    • Fork fluffing couscous.
    • Crushing garlic with side of blade.
    • Chicken pieces landing on softened onions
    • Chicken, lemon, olives, couscous, teeth.


    • Knife on keyboard.
    • Wooden spoon on cast iron pan (flattening more garlic).


    • Joint where thigh meets breast.
    • Coffee (cross-reference: electric sounds).

  • Splashing


    • Overflowing from glass into sink.
    • Tap running.
    Sound in mouth. (Note: do others make the same sound? Can they hear me?)


    • Slurping.
    • Disguised slurping following dirty look from wife.
    • Pour into glass.
    • Waves within glass.

  • More Grinding

    • Teeth
    • Mixing couscous and sauce. Fork makes muted grinding sound. (Investigate further.)

  • Chewing

  • Swallowing

    (perhaps this last item is too musical for list)
  • Meditation on Lines by Rilke

    Praising, that's it! Praise was his mission,
    and he came the way ore comes, from silent
    rock. His heart, a wine press that couldn't last
    made us an endless supply of wine.

    Even in the dust his voice won't fail him
    once the godhead has him in its grip.
    All things turn vineyard, all things turn grape,
    in the ripening South of his feelings.

    Nothing can contradict his praise,
    not mold in the royal sepulchre
    nor that a shadow will fall from the gods.

    He's the messenger who stays,
    who carries his bowls of praiseworthy fruit
    across the thresholds of the dead.

    -- Sonnets to Orpheus I:7, David Young, trans.

    The mission of the night is praise (Praise!) and I will praise Paris, though it has been praised before, and better than I could ever praise it. My lyre makes cities reappear -- hear the echoing of my feet when I landed flat footed in a square; see the twist of my face when I ate a cigar; I will walk the length of the quays and skateboard around them again; I will eat cake; I will make words from neon; I will speak in tongues; I will praise Paris.

    Friday, February 09, 2007

    A Reading of "Dire Wolf"

    Dire Wolf

    I have been clattering through my world of late, and also through the archives, thinking there must have been something I missed while ducking my cheek into my collar to hold up against the wind. Sorrows, like a gathering of dire wolves, come in packs. It's a question of loss, how it blinds, how the absence of someone can seem to extinguish the history of their presence. To you I am not speaking anymore. I return to journals and find… nothing. Who was the person that wrote that? How did I feel that way? And now, whom should I address.

    Take, for example, my friend who reversed the intended direction of a shotgun (now that you have gotten these things off your barrel chest) – afterwards I felt weirdly unaffected Sorry to fill my prose with so many words of others, but here's Rilke on the subject, "I've had my dead and let them go, and been astounded to find them so peaceful, so at home in their deaths, so different from their reputation." There is of course a "but' coming –

    "Except for you. You turn back. You hit against me." It is time for you to merge into the sobbing rain. When grief hits, it's shocking to me how I feel at once totally lost and totally self-indulgent. I am not me and yet I am alone and only me, it's all like a one room scene in Appalachia, smeared (like graffiti, like some damn vandal has snuck into my house and smashed my plates and my tables and painted obscenities on all the walls) by fog.

    There are some people I turned to as naturally as I walk in space, as if I went to them for a cup of water I adored you as much as an aluminum bucket of storm after a great unlovely silver thirst. I carried them within me like language, like words that I don't think about until they appear on my computer screen how nice for me. One or two are still with me. Others have become scar tissue somewhere in my liver.

    To be clear: I most emphatically do not know how you feel. To gain even an inkling I have to crack open my Homer, or venture into deserts like the English Patient ("We die in a forest of lovers and tribes") with his Herodotus, or seek some appropriate epic of loss . In the Pleistocene, the wild wolves roamed in scattered sorrows over everywhere, prodigious in appetite, howling at the hollow of everything empty yes everything, and their packs devoured all sorrows and made them a throat covered with a bolt of red.

    Again, this is a pain I do not know; I own my pain ("appropriation"), I hold it and make it me, and write in first person -- that’s what makes it self indulgent. Even when I lose it I keep a record, something to point to and say – "here once was me." And in this way perhaps I can see (but not know or feel) that there are things which can dismantle entirely
    A spirit, such as the pathetic maledictive fear of loss

    You've asked us to pray, and that seems right – that words should be found and given to you. (Of loss:you get to speak of it, once you are its intimate…) I can offer you only the hope of blessings, the bare outline of speech (...and not before). But I hope my words can find you, and you can make something of them, and while I continue to clatter through my own whatever-it-is, you can find something in the snow of your computer screen, and that a blessing for you can be that

    in the great white rendezvous, where

    I was brooding
    Just a while, you get to speak of dire love.

    For Isonomist.

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007


    Patrick Ewing receives the ball in the low post. He puts his jaw back where it's supposed to go. He scowls at all comers, and dunks. That's Knick basketball.

    Being a Yankee hater, I can live with the Mets. I dislike the Giants, the Jets, the Rangers, the Devils, and the Islanders. I can live with the Nets. But the only team I love, the only team I care about in this, my adopted city, my new found regional center, is the New York Knicks.

    So naturally, I'm rooting for them to lose. I want Isiah Thomas to no longer be my neighbor. I want Madison Square Garden to be more aesthetically appealing than Penn Station. I want basketball.

    In any normal conference, this is a team that would be a doormat. It doesn't deserve to exist. It's laughing at Darwin, sneering at any kind of logic, they kind of hang around despite their remarkable suckiness.

    I just want them to lose. Lose, lose, lose. As long as Isaiah Thomas is in the building, I want them to lose. I want humiliation. I want the Garden to be Artaudian in its theater of cruelty. I want Isaiah gone.

    Because if you don't have a team, are you at home?